This book's main significance comes in the way that it is credited with the creation of a new literary genre known as the picaresque novel. The features of this genre are that the adventures of the "picaro," a Spanish word meaning rogue or rascal, entertain the reader whilst simultaneously exposing the injustice of society. This novel was actually banned and was published anonymously because of the danger that the author could have been placed in due to the way it attacks both the church and the aristocracy. In each of the main chapters, Lazarillo serves a member of the church. All of these figures are reported by Lazarillo in intimate detail, and are exposed to be hypocrites to varying degrees.
In addition, stylistically, this novel features a gritty realism, particularly in Lazarillo's description of the class structure from his lowly position, that represents a distinct departure from literature up to that point which was mainly chivalric. In fact, the author deliberately parodies this chivalric style at specific points, such as in the Prologue, where Lazarillo states his intention for writing down his life story to be so that "remarkable things never heard or seen before... should come to the attention of many and should not be buried in the tomb of oblivion." This is a deliberate parody of chivalric writing given that the "remarkable things never heard or seen before" are not the romantic adventures of worthy knights but the all-too-real life story of poor Lazarillo as he has all innocence and naivety knocked out of him and who survives in the world through cunning alone.